Author Archive

Networking as a Servant Leader

I recently had the privilege to listen to Rick Itzkowich (AKA Rick “I” the LinkedIn guy) speak on the power of LinkedIn and ironically he opened my eyes to the power of networking as a leader. LinkedIn has become such a valuable tool for business professionals because of its networking capabilities through peoples’ degrees of separation. One great line that Rick “I” said is, “You never know who you know knows, unless you ask.” Now the word “know” is used  a lot in that statement, but when you discover the meaning you find that it is so true because often we are looking to establish a connection with someone without asking all the people in our closest circles who they know, which could lead you to the right person.

Connect People

Connect People

If you look at this issue in an opposite way, you can see that there is a clear opportunity to improve your ability to serve others needs as a leader. Who do you know whom you could introduce to someone to help their career? Networking is not necessarily all about making connections with people so that you can use them but it is more about friend raising for long-standing relationships. LinkedIn works in two ways simultaneously; as a self-serving vehicle for connection and as a connections serving vehicle. Often times the best feeling you can ever have is when you give to someone else and then watch them go on to drastically improve their life. This is how you raise friendships.

Networking as a Servant Leader

Introduce Others

Helping others succeed is what leadership is all about but people don’t just automatically come to you and ask for a connection unless they see that you have two important traits. These are:

  1. Credibility takes time to build and get noticed. You will need to show that you are capable in the field of interest and that you demonstrate a certain level of integrity that people will want to imitate.
  2. Trust is all important in business relationships. It builds off of credibility over time and the consistency of your statements and actions. Without trust all relationships perish no matter their depth.

Personal relationships are always the key to good business. You can buy networking; you can’t buy friendships.
Lindsay Fox

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies.

During Chaotic Times, FOCUS is King

I am sure many of the people reading have experienced streaks of pure chaos in the workplace. Often times people let their emotions get the best of them, and the result is usually very stressful and unproductive.

Stress in the workplace

Stress in the workplace

Leaders in organizations need to dig deep during these pressure packed periods to find a sense of calm and clarity from which to lead their direct reports. They still need to work with a sense of urgency in order to meet deadlines and complete timely requests, but sometimes in order to work fast the best practice is to slow down.

That is where the acronym FOCUS comes into play. When the leader finds the ability to take a moment to breath and FOCUS then they keep their mind clear and simplify every challenge. Some people are not naturally calm under pressure but this is a skill that can be learned if leaders are mindful enough to be aware of how their thoughts affect their actions.

Leading Others

Leading Others

FOCUS:

Find your center – When stress builds and tensions rise take a moment to breathe deeply and return to your internal comfort zone. You really need to be in tune with yourself to diagnose when your mind is about to be overloaded. Start practicing mindfulness now to know how you feel when you are at your most productive and collaborative state.

Own your emotions – Once you let your emotions control you then you have lost your ability to lead. Stay calm, cool, and collected and remember that when you are starting to feel overwhelmed take a moment to find your center.

Control your reactions – Reactions define your relationships with your coworkers. Every time you interact with another you create a memory on the others mental blue print of whom they believe you are. Be sure that all the impressions you are leaving are consistent with your character and personal values. Owning your emotions will definitely help you control your reactions.

Understand the situation – Leaders who take the time to listen to their direct reports during chaotic times succeed in identifying the correct next steps. Listening occurs with both your ears and your eyes. If you are entering a situation without having been previously involved then you do not know the dynamics. Taking a moment before reacting will help you understand the solution to the situation.

Serve others needs – The greatest leaders know that it is not possible for one person to make every decision and complete every action. Therefore you must provide your team members with the direction and support they need at every point in time. If you approach every day with the mentality that you lead to serve rather than be served then you and your organization will succeed.

That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

Steve Jobs

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies

Flipping the Leadership Mentality

A learning revolution is taking place in the world today. The idea of the Flipped Classroom has widely swept the educational community. This idea places more emphasis on activity in the classroom instead of lecture and places more value on real-time collaboration among students to complete tasks. Traditionally classes would only provide information during class and expect the students to absorb it as a one size fits all offering then complete the course work on their own time alone. This one size fits all model has proved to be ineffective for every learner and does not promote mastery of the curriculum.

Flipped classroom

Traditional learning turned upside down.

Traditional management has taken the same approach with their direct reports. Today with the wide array of technology available, leaders need to flip their mentality from “telling and expecting” to “sharing and doing”. This requires more preparation from the leader and places more responsibility on them to work side by side with direct reports to get things done the way they intended them to be.

Leaders should hold regular one on ones with their direct reports to let them share what is on their mind. The direct report should lead the agenda and the manager should listen and determine the amount of support or direction needed. This meeting format greatly increases the amount of collaboration between the manager and direct report and helps to build the working relationship.

collaboration, effective planning

Collaboration is everything

Before scheduling a meeting, leaders should send a report or detailed description of your idea to their team or direct report an hour or two before they meet with them. Now when they meet the entire time is not spent describing what the meeting is about and the direct report is not caught off guard. The time is used to discuss concerns the team or direct report may have and brain storm ways to improve on the idea or results of the report. People will feel empowered and respected which encourages them to take ownership over the project.

Flipping the traditional authoritative leadership mentality to encourage more collaboration produces the results that organizations need. Managers will need to set their ego aside and be willing to relinquish the positional power that comes with their title. Remember that if you are in a leadership position you are there to serve the needs of your people as well as the needs of your customers.

A leader is someone who steps back from the entire system and tries to build a more collaborative, more innovative system that will work over the long term.

– Robert Reich

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies

3 Simplistic Ways to Lead with Resilience

What determines a leader’s capacity to grow through adversity? What propels some leaders through the flames of the fire and up to the top of the organization? It is a varying quality that is built over time through experience and personal belief. Resilience is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. Now why do leaders need to exemplify resiliency among their direct reports?

There has been a movement to embrace employees who are so motivated to succeed that they push the boundaries of their capabilities and fail at their tasks. Insightful leaders know that failure is a stepping stone on the path to great achievement. Being resilient through uncertainty increases the rate at which leaders guide their focus toward the next plateau.

So how do you learn to bounce back faster from the bumps in the road encountered throughout your career? Discovering your preferred coping mechanism helps but that can take some time and planning so the first step is to look at each instance as simply as possible.

Be aware of your reaction: How do you respond when something does not go as you had imagined? Do you respond with anger or sadness? Pay attention to your emotions and keep them in check. Approach a setback with an open mind and be willing to learn a new way of achieving a task.

Listen with the intent of being influenced: Listening does not only relate to hearing words. You need to listen to and observe the environment around you. Put your blinders down to see and hear what is happening in your office, your organization, and the rest of the world. You do not have to change your decision based on what you hear but at least you will have given yourself the chance to consider another point of view.

See the silver lining: Do you believe there is a lesson to be learned in every situation? If you are seeking to find the worst outcomes in a failed attempt then you will find them. Likewise, if you look for all that is beneficial to your overall cause then you will indeed find that too.

The leaders I met, whatever walk of life they were from, whatever institutions they were presiding over, always referred back to the same failure – something that happened to them that was personally difficult, even traumatic, something that made them feel that desperate sense of hitting bottom–as something they thought was almost a necessity. It’s as if at that moment the iron entered their soul; that moment created the resilience that leaders need.

-Warren Bennis

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies. To learn more about The Ken Blanchard Companies please visit www.kenblanchard.com

3 Essential Pieces to the Puzzle of a Successful Team

Every high performing team is made up of a mix of people that fulfill specific needs. They are all pieces of a puzzle that could not be completed if one piece was lost or exchanged for another shape. It is crucial that when building this team everyone knows their role and sticks to their responsibilities without stepping over boundary lines. Team members need to understand where those boundary lines are by becoming a jack of all trades but they still need to be an expert at one. Below are three essential components to a successful team.

  1. A Leader: The person who plays the leader, captain, or coach should be a great communicator and role model. They may not be the highest performing member of the team; however they have the best people skills to keep the team moving in the right direction. They need to have empathy for people when they are struggling but also an ability to push someone when they are feeling they have hit a wall. Teams do not succeed without someone leading them toward their end goal.
  2. Role Players: Although these team members are often over looked they are the most important in completing the simple tasks that lead to the overall success of the team. Role players are able to make a team’s project look appealing, function properly, or maintain a certain level of operation. It is important for the leader to establish that these people are role players on the team but also that they have individual roles assigned to them which contribute to the overall success of the team
  3. A Star Performer: Every best team has its role player or leader who also turns out to be its star. The star is the person who excels at everything at a level that is higher than the rest. It is the one person who has the skills that the others strive towards. This person develops the best ideas but also has the clearest plans to execute them. The star performer is not always the leader because they may not know how to communicate how they do what they do, but they embody what a high performer looks like.

There are very high functioning teams which do not have all three of these pieces yet produce great results. However, to be the best team possible you need to have members who take on each of these positions and then work together. The leader has the greatest influence on the cohesion of the team.

The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.
– Vince Lombardi

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies. To learn more about The Ken Blanchard Companies please visit www.kenblanchard.com

Effective Leaders Choose to “Humanize” Communication

One of the workplaces largest challenges is communicating effectively to achieve desired results and outcomes. Due to the quick advancements in technology over the past few years, everyone is available at all times. It is fantastic that the people who need to make important decisions are available at a moment’s notice no matter where they are in the world, but do all forms of communication allow managers and leaders the ability to clearly understand the needs of their direct reports without communicating face to face? I do not always believe this is true. We need to remember that business is built on relationships and in order to create a meaningful relationship we need to “humanize” communication. I would like to highlight the four most common ways we have available today to communicate and describe some of the advantages and disadvantages with each.20130523-140123.jpg

  1. Communication via email is time stamped and an effective alternative to “snail mail”. It is a great way to send someone in your company a quick message, a long list of to-dos, or a detailed inquiry on any given task. Email correspondence is not always time sensitive and is a great way for multiple people to read, process, and refer back to tasks or initiatives sent to them by their manager before they respond with questions, concerns, or approval. The pitfalls of emailing revolve around missing the physical and vocal cues people unintentionally respond to face to face. Also, if there is ever an emergency situation a quick response may be difficult to come by. In speaking directly to your manager, you can convey certain concerns through the pitch of your voice and body motions which elicit emotions you are feeling. We read these signals unconsciously and they connect us to others. This is especially important when you have an urgent matter. Many times writing styles are confusing and may not be interpreted in the same manner in which it was intended. I would not suggest trying to email your leader or direct report when you need to make a quick decision.
  2. Communication via telephone is one of the earliest technological advancements and is extremely effective for a number of reasons. You can get straight to the point and make quick real time decisions. It is also possible to convey emotions through the pitch and tone of your voice which does help in connecting with the person on the other end of the phone line. However you lack the ability to gain a complete perspective of what the other person is experiencing in that given moment. Environment plays a key role in connecting people through experience and can affect the productivity of communication. Someone on the other end of the line could be fighting traffic while on the phone, distracted by their surroundings, which would take their mind off of the present moment. Important urgent decisions are influenced by environment and it is important to understand all variables influencing it. It is impossible for people on opposite lines of a telephone to know what the other is going through.
  3. Communication via video conference is a great alternative for people who are working together from multiple locations. Programs like Skype and Face time have brought families, friends, and colleagues from around the globe together in real time. Both parties can see each other face to face and somewhat experience their environments. You can see their facial cues and mannerisms through the video and gain a pretty accurate impression of what the other is experiencing during your conversation. While this is a great way to connect to people in your organization from around the globe it is still not the best. You miss the complete interactive feeling of being in the presence of another human being. It is often difficult to really gain full understanding of the other persons thought process because you only see the top half of their body and/or what the video screen captures behind them. Frustration may set in if the internet bandwidth is not strong enough. Complications can arise delaying the video feed and chopping the audio so I would not recommend holding high level business communications through this medium if at all possible.
  4. Communication in person is of course the original form of relating to others inter-personally and remains the most productive. You just cannot beat a face to face interaction. One of my coaches told me that he would evaluate the effectiveness of his interactions by imagining himself viewing the interaction as a third person in the room looking down from a corner. While this may sound strange, it is very useful to imagine how the two of you are relating and meshing with one another. After all people are not robots and a sense of connection is important to establish the feelings needed so that you can work together. You must look at a situation from another person’s perspective. If the logistics of an in person meeting are difficult to figure out I would revert back to a video conference meeting but if at all possible do it in person. You will gain a much richer experience with the other person and really connect, which increases the likelihood that you will achieve your desired results.

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.
– Anthony Robbins

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies. To learn more about The Ken Blanchard Companies please visit www.kenblanchard.com

Great Leaders Model Happiness

Goals provide people with a vision or a light at the end of the tunnel. They are conjured up in the hope that people’s dream lives can be attained. Aspiring minds seek to push beyond the belief of what is deemed possible in the world (as it is known) and set goals that will carry the human species to the next level of evolution.

But does perfection exist? Is it an attainable reality that people would actually know they have achieved?

My answer is, no perfection is not real, however I base my life on setting and achieving goals which carry me along toward one end result…happiness. I believe happiness is what everyone is searching for in their lives. It is the fuel that energizes each person to wake up in the morning and walk out their front door hoping to find the one moment that makes their day.

Happiness is perfection. Yet most discover it far too late in their lives to enjoy it.

Make it your goal now to enjoy each moment. Enjoy the moment, no matter where you are, what you are doing, or with whom you are interacting. Take ownership of yourself and don’t leave your sense of positive well-being in the hands of someone or something else. You have all the power in the world to make your life the best it can possibly be and if you believe that you are your best self then others will follow your lead.

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Thomas Jefferson 

To learn more about how your focus influences your ability to achieve more than you perceive possible, Register Now for the Leadership Livecast “Doing ‘Still’ More With Less”. This is a free online event with guest commentary from Ken and Scott Blanchard!

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